Traffic congestion and limited parking in downtown Chapel Hill often deter potential shoppers and diners, an issue not uncommon to growing urban areas. Slidr, a new Asheville-based transportation company, hopes to act as a mediator by offering short complementary and energy-efficient rides in downtown areas. For now, it is only available in Asheville and Raleigh.
The vehicles used are manufactured by Polaris GEM, a forerunner in electric vehicles. These low-speed, windowless vehicles closely resemble an elongated golf cart, but are equipped with street-legal safety features such as seat belts and turn signals. Furthermore, with zero-emissions and lower-maintenance costs, they are the cheaper and more sustainable choice.
In January, Slidr received approval from the Asheville town council to operate with a franchise agreement, meaning the ride service will receive some funding from the local government. Due to advertising space on the vehicles, the company will not be fully reliant on local funding. The CEO of Slidr, Michael Trambino, is now hoping to gain approval from Raleigh’s town council.
Similar to Uber, Slidr is an on-demand service, but it does not yet have a ride-request app; users in Asheville must directly call.
However, while Slidr is not nearly the adversary to taxis that Uber is, the free ride service will still compete with the traditional yellow cabs. Taxis are a rare sight in Chapel Hill, but in more urban areas and big cities, they are hard to miss. According to TripAdvisor LLC, many people tend to rely on taxis to travel short distances when carrying heavy luggage. Because downtown Chapel Hill is an area of commerce and dining, countless people can be seen sporting multiple bags at once. Since Slidr is purely meant for providing people with short, free rides (up to three miles), taxi services may lose many customers who need to travel short distances.
Unlike taxis, however, Slidr operates through energy efficient, eco-friendly cars. Using these vehicles rather than conventional taxis could reduce a decent amount of greenhouse gases released through the old-style taxis’ exhaust pipes. This is appealing to not only those who choose to ride in a Slidr vehicle, but also to those who choose to remain on foot, as they will not be bombarded with fumes.
Many East students believe Slidr is an interesting concept that has the potential to be successful in Chapel Hill.
“I think it’s a cool idea and I’d like to know more about who’s funding it and safety for the passengers,” reflected Franky Wang, a senior who is familiar with other ride services, such as Uber.
For other high schoolers, the fact that Slidr provides free rides from electric vehicles is enough of a hook. Frances O’Grady, a junior, remarked, “If it’s free, then yeah I’d use it.”
Overall, if this service came to Chapel Hill, students are willing to try it out.
Photo courtesy of News and Observer